Tuesday, March 31, 2009

"Monsters vs. Aliens" (3D) - spoiler movie review

I am not generally a fan of Dreamworks' animated films. I don't really care for the style or the story of their animated works. So when I first saw the trailer for "Monsters vs. Aliens", I really thought it was cute and was surprised at how different it looked and felt from Dreamworks' other animated films. Wow, a Dreamworks animated film I actually want to see. Imagine that.

I am, however, a big fan of the 3D that's used nowadays in film. I like how they enhance the film, so we decided to go ahead and see the 3D version of this film. There were a couple of gimmicky moves in the beginning (like the paddle ball in your face), but overall, it was just enhancement, which was good.

In general, I really enjoyed the film. There were a lot of laughs all around, though some of the jokes seemed to me way beyond the remembrance of the young kids that you'd expect would be and were in fact in the audience. How many kids know the theme from "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" or the song Axel-F?

Going into it, I hadn't known who was voicing the characters, so at the beginning of the film, I was surprised to see all the recognizable names.

I was very surprised that Reese Witherspoon was voicing Susan, the lead character. She was very good, though for some reason, I found it really distracting that she was voicing a dark-haired character, which should be a non-issue really.

Kiefer Sutherland voiced the general, sounding a lot like he did when he voiced the drill sargeant in an episode of "The Simpsons". I don't really care for it when he gets that gruff tone in his voice - he sounds fine as is.

Stephen Colbert was pretty funny as the president. That thing with the two buttons - launch nuclear weapons or latte - was just hysterical.

I loved the changed Dreamworks logo to go with this film! Too cool.

Derek was a total and complete ass. He deserves to be in Modesto and Fresno. And is Fresno really a step up from Modesto?

I laughed at some of their song choices - Journey and The Little River Band!

Susan obviously shops at the same place as The Incredible Hulk because when she becomes gigantic, her wedding dress rips some but still manages to cover all of her instead of, like it really should, just being enough to cover her pinky finger. And then when she gets the alien substance stripped from her and she shrinks, her clothes magically shrink too. Oh, and her wedding gown must have been seriously scotch-guarded because after she got hit by the alien ship thing and was a mess and dirty, her mother just had to wipe it off and she was good to get married.

The stuff with B.O.B. and the jello (both times) was just too frickin' funny.

The sound of the creature who's the head of the aliens when it's walking on its tentacles was pretty funky, even more so when there were boatloads of clones of it.

The countdown clock of when the ship is going to self-destruct, which is actually off count, was HILARIOUS!!! I *loved* that!

One factual liberty they took in the film for laughs: when they were evacuating San Francisco and having everyone crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, that meant they were going from San Francisco into Marin. There's a line about "exact change appreciated but not required" for the toll. They don't charge toll going that way. Toll is always charged going into San Francisco, not leaving it. But, error aside, the whole sequence with the destruction of the Golden Gate Bridge was pretty awesome.

The UFO lands and almost destroys Modesto and then effectively tries to destroy San Francisco. I'm thinking the aliens were targeting George Lucas and just didn't know where to find him.

If Dreamworks makes more animated films like this, I'd be more inclined to see them.

I was really surprised and disappointed and annoyed, though, that we got a ton of trailers, but NONE of them in 3D. Cause, you know, there are of course NO OTHER 3D MOVIES COMING OUT FOR THE REST OF THE YEAR. Yeah.

Monday, March 30, 2009

yet another person learns the Twitter lesson

There have been a number of stories in the news of late about people who are having to pay the consequences of having an open Twitter account and then just tweeting things they really should not be. They don't seem to get that if their account is not protected, then ANYONE can read what they tweet. It's no different than writing a blog or posting a public comment to a message board or something like that. If your account is protected, then you just have to be sure of who you allow to read your stream, but if it's open - you're fair game to everyone.

Mark Cuban is owner of the NBA basketball team Dallas Mavericks, and he apparently [sic] is on Twitter. After a recent defeat by the Mavericks to the Denver Nuggets, he tweeted a complaint about a non-call by the officials.

The NBA is notorious for being super-uptight about ANY comments even mildly critical of officials. Someone must have been following him who eventually relayed it to the league, because Cuban was fined $25,000 for his comment about the officiating. Frankly, I think it's ridiculous that the NBA has such a thin skin when it comes to comments about officiating. I can't think of another professional sport where it's like that - certainly not baseball or football. And it's not like basketball officials are immune to making mistakes or missing calls - they're human after all. I guess Cuban would have been fined if he'd made that comment during a live or print interview, so that's probably why he was also fined for saying it over Twitter. And with a public figure like that, you wouldn't expect his Twitter feed to be protected.

When it comes down to it, $25,000 isn't that much money to someone like Mark Cuban. But there seem to be more and more examples of people getting into trouble because of what they openly tweet.

And yes, my Twitter stream is protected. And yes, I'd get into all kinds of trouble with the stuff I tweet if I had an open stream. But then, that's why I have it protected!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

March Madness - Final Four

I'm not usually interested in college basketball, but for some reason this year, I find myself paying attention to some degree to the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

The final four teams still left in pursuit of the national championship have been set: Michigan State, Connecticut, Villanova and North Carolina. Connecticut and North Carolina seem to be the ones I keep hearing about. I think it's a surprise that Duke was kicked out of the running so early. I've heard about Villanova's basketball team, but I think of Michigan State college sports more in terms of football.

For some reason, there was much ado made about the fact that President Obama filled out his own bracket. Only one of his final four teams is still in the running, but that final four team is who he picked to win it all - North Carolina. We'll see if they make it through to the finals.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

fly like an Eagle (Scout)

This morning, I attended the Eagle Scout Court of Honor ceremony for one of my nephews, my older brother's oldest son. My brother had sent out an invitation a couple of weeks ago, and the husband and I had accepted the invitation to attend.

I had known that my brother and his kids had been involved in scouting for some time, and I had heard from the oldest son a couple of months ago that he was very close to completing Eagle Scout. I had the understanding that it was significant, but I'll admit that I didn't know what it really meant.

When I was a kid, I never knew anyone who was part of scouting. Thinking about it now, it occurs to me that there might be some kind of correlation between scouting and socio-economic level - I grew up in a fairly modest neighborhood, and I don't know that there would have been the means nor the inclination for most people in that area to be involved in scouting. Even when I was in college, I don't recall any of my friends ever mentioning being involved with scouting. I think the most I ever knew about the Boy Scouts was the whole "helping little old ladies across the street" thing, along with a recitation they'd learn about what attributes a Boy Scout should exemplify, and I'd see the occasional ad on TV. But none of that really gave me an understanding of what Boy Scouts was really about.

So after I responded to the invitation, I sent out a tweet for some advice about protocol and what I needed to do, and I got back a response from a friend which was very helpful.

The Boy Scout troop that my nephew belongs to meets at a church, which is where the ceremony was also held. The husband and I picked up my parents, and we ended up arriving at the church a bit early. We said hello to my brother and my sister-in-law, as well as my two nephews. We also had a chance to look at some of the displays that had been put up. The troop had 8 scouts who were being honored in the ceremony, and each scout had a table in the lobby area. Each table had a picture of the boy in his scout uniform in front of the American flag. There was also a plaque with the Eagle Scout certificate as well as a plexiglass award for the Eagle Scout. There was also a book that had the scout's Eagle Scout application, merit badge cards, and a full description of the scout's Eagle Scout project.

Each scout has to complete a project as part of the process, and the projects by the various boys included rebuilding a church barbeque pit, refurbishing a church gazebo, refurbishing the recreation room for a local youth center, and other renovation or refurbishment projects for other public locations. There were details about what the project was planned to be, how much the project would cost (because of materials needed to do the project), how the scout would raise the money for the project (generally through donations and fundraising activities), the actual process of doing the project itself, a breakdown of the amount of time the entire project took, what changes might have needed to have been made during the course of completing the project, and pictorial documentation of before, during and after completion of the project. The scout generally had help in doing the project, since part of the project is so the scout can demonstrate an ability to lead and work with others. The documentation of the projects shows what an endeavour it is for each scout to complete his project.

There was another book on the table which contained all of the various awards and certificates that the scout had received as well as a multitude of congratulatory letters from various political dignitaries, government agencies, businesses and private individuals on the scout's Eagle Scout achievement. I would imagine there's a whole process in place for this, but it was still very impressive to see. In looking through my nephew's book, there were a number of letters from local councilpeople, state senators and reps, the governor of California, Congressional reps and Senators, former president Jimmy Carter, former president George Bush and Barbara Bush, Vice President Joe Biden, various federal agencies including the Navy, the California Highway Patrol, commissioner of the National Football League, owners of both the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Anaheim Angels (yeah, I know, but I'm still calling them that), and that's just to name a few of the ones I remember seeing.

We also said hello to my older sister and her husband when they arrived, and then it was shortly time for the ceremony to start, so we took seats in the sanctuary. (The church grounds were very nice, and the church itself was beautiful.) The master of ceremonies for the court of honor was one of the members of the troop. The color guards (which included another nephew of mine, the younger brother of the Eagle Scout honoree) brought in flags and situated them and then the ceremony itself was called to order.

There was a bit of information given about the path that a scout takes from the very beginning to the point where they would qualify to be an Eagle Scout. Then, in turn, each Eagle Scout has introduced, including a few of his accomplishments, and then a representative chosen by the Eagle Scout honoree was able to give a testimonial about the person. The people chosen to speak ranged from family members to teachers to tutors to friends, and it was really nice to hear the stories that everyone told and to learn a bit about each honoree.

The person my nephew had chosen (as did a fellow honoree who is also one of his classmates) is one of his high school teachers. When she was speaking about the other honoree, she told a funny story about how she was actually late for the ceremony because she had gotten lost, since the numbering system on the street is a bit eodd. She knew she was lost but didn't know how to get where she needed to be, and she happened to spot two local city police officers in their car stopped on the street, so she turned her car around and made her way over to them and explained that she was lost and where she was trying to get to and how important it was because of what she was going there to do, and could they tell her how to get to the church? And, she said, that's how she ended up getting a police escort to the church. I loved that story. It was also funny that a local city councilman was in attendance at the ceremony, and he later mentioned that it was nice to hear confirmation about how helpful the local police officers were.

When the teacher spoke about my nephew, it was interesting to hear what she had to say about him, how glowing she was in her praise of him, and she also had one really interesting thing to share about an assignment he had completed in her class. I still have a hard time remembering that this nephew is now an adult, having just turned 18 this month.

Slight tangent here for a minute to tell a story - at one point, I lived across the street from my brother and his family. At that time, they only had the oldest son, the Eagle Scout honoree, who was probably maybe 2 or so at the time. It was December, and it was my first Christmas in the house, so I was putting up decorations and a tree. My sister-in-law and the nephew had come over for something, and my sister-in-law was going back to her house, but my nephew wanted to "help" (really, it was "watch") me decorate the tree, so he stayed at my house. As I was decorating, I figured he'd be bored just watching me, so I decided I could put on some cartoons for him to watch too. My brother is a big Disney fan (this was before I started my own Disney obsession), so I knew that my nephew knew who Mickey and Minnie and Donald and Goofy and Pluto et al were and watched their cartoons often, so I asked him if he wanted to watch Bugs Bunny instead. And I was stunned at his answer. He had no idea who Bugs Bunny was. Or Elmer Fudd. Or Road Runner. My brother had indoctrinated him into Disney animated lore, but he'd never been introduced to Warner Bros. cartoons. What kind of neglect was this poor kid being subjected to? How can he be almost 3 years old and have no idea about any of the Warner Bros. characters? Well, as his aunt, it was my duty to make sure he had a well-rounded education - so I sat him down and put in one of the multiple Warner Bros. cartoon collections I owned. As each cartoon came on, I explained to him who each character was while I continued to decorate the house. I like to think that I'm the one responsible for balancing out his animated characters education.

After a couple hours, his mom came back to get him because it was time for his dinner. After that, it was bath time and then off to bed for him. She told me the next day that he'd gotten upset because he thought he'd be coming back to my house after dinner. He was worried that if he wasn't there to "help", I wouldn't be able to finish decorating the tree. She assured him that I would be able to manage on my own, but I thought that was pretty sweet of him to be concerned about me. Even as a young child, he was thinking about someone else.

OK, story derail over. Back to court of honor.

After each honoree's rep had spoken, someone then explained all the things that were required for a scout to reach Eagle Scout. There were a certain number of badges they had to earn and leadership positions they had to hold. They had to complete their Eagle Scout project. But in addition to that, they each had to appear before a Boy Scouts council and had to basically convince them that they were worthy of being bestowed the Eagle Scout title. (The husband later told me that it's nowhere near being an automatic process - he had a friend years ago who for whatever reason was not approved for Eagle Scout even though he had technically completed all the requirements, but his appearance before the council must not have gone well.) Earning the Eagle Scout title is a lot of work and takes years to complete (and reminded me somewhat of a thesis project), requiring dedication and commitment. Most of the honorees, including my nephew, are graduating seniors, so all of their Boy Scout commitments have to be done while they're also attending to their school work, family and any other outside interests. It's a huge accomplishment indeed.

The honorees were then administered their Eagle Scout pledge. There was then a presentation of awards to the parents of the honorees. As much work as the honorees themselves have to put in, the parents also have to be supportive and provide a lot of assistance during the entire process. The parents were asked to join the honorees, and then each honoree gave their mother an "Eagle Scout mom" pin and then gave their father an "Eagle Scout dad" pin. That was really nice to see. All of those parents were so obviously proud of their sons for their accomplishment, but it was also nice to see the parents being honored and thanked as well.

There was also a special presentation to the two scoutmasters of the troop from the parents of the honorees, for their hard work and assistance to each honoree. Each scoutmaster was given a plaque as a thank you. And it so happens that one of the scoutmasters is my brother, father to the Eagle Scout honoree nephew. He spoke for a minute about how much he enjoyed being a scoutmaster and how much he has loved seeing all the kids (including his own son) mature and learn and develop during the scouting process and working with them along the way. The other scoutmaster then spoke and echoed his sentiments. It was really nice to see and hear all that. I did find it amusing that my brother ended up being on both sides of that award, as an Eagle Scout honoree parent and as co-scoutmaster. I later asked him if he knew about the award ahead of time, and he said he did not. His wife, however, did know about it. That was pretty funny.

After a few more announcements, the ceremony was brought to a close. There was a reception held right afterward, so everyone had a chance to mingle and chat. The husband and I had a chance to talk to my nephew for a bit about his Eagle Scout process. The program had listed how many merit badges each honoree had (and they also had the badges sewn onto their sashes), and the husband and I had both noticed that all the boys had 20-something merit badges, except for one person - my nephew - who had 45. From what we were told, there are a number of specific badges which are required, and then the scout has to have a certain number of total badges. The husband and I had joked that since my nephew had his father as the co-scoutmaster, he pretty much *had* to participate in each badge activity. Can't very well blow it off when your dad's the one who's running it. We asked him about that, and he said that his father didn't force him to do any of the badges. His dad would tell him that he was running this, that and the other merit badge activity on whatever day, and if he wanted to go, he could. Usually, he would choose to go. So his dad/my brother gave him the opportunity to participate if he wanted to but left it up to him to decide, and he usually ended up deciding to participate. I thought that was pretty cool.

I also had a chance to talk to my other nephew for a bit. He's also in scouting, and he's three years younger than his Eagle Scout brother. The younger brother already has 10 of the 12 (I think those numbers are right) of the required badges, and he already has 20-something total badges, and he's well on his way to his own Eagle Scout process.

There was quite a nice turnout for the ceremony, with friends and family of each honoree in attendance. I particularly enjoyed the ceremony because it gave me an understanding of the Boy Scouts that I didn't have before, and it also gave me an appreciation for what the Boy Scouts teaches. I know that some people object to the religious affiliation that can be connected with the Boy Scouts, but even if you disregard that, the Boy Scouts teach kids very good values, especially concerning service to others and responsibility for yourself. Those are both very worthwhile lessons to learn.

I'm glad that I was invited to witness this ceremony, and I look forward to going again, when the younger nephew is an honoree.

Oh, and as far as the title of this blog, I'll admit I stole it - after the ceremony was over, they played The Steve Miller Band's song "Fly Like an Eagle".

Friday, March 27, 2009

80s flashback - The Human League - "Don't You Want Me" and "Human"

Tonight's 80s flashback is a two-fer - two videos for the price of one blog post!

I wouldn't say that I'm a fan of The Human League in general as I don't really know their body of work very well. But I was and am still quite enamoured of two of their big hits. The subject matters are intriguing, and I just love the feel and rhythms of the songs. It's hard to say which one I actually like better. The first song is more upbeat and more energetic, but the smoothness of the second song is just intoxicating. They're both songs that I have a hard time not singing along to when I hear them, so pity you if you happen to be around me when I hear one or the other.

"Don't You Want Me" - One of the things I love about this song is that you get both sides of the story. He talks about how much he did for her, though there's an implied threat as well, and you kind of feel sorry for him a bit, but then you get her side. You either think she's a heartless bitch or that she did what she had to do.

"Human" - Infidelity is something that most people find unforgiveable, but his coaxing voice does wonders in trying to talk you through it, to forgive him. As much as his straying might have hurt, you also hear the longing and sorrow in his voice. And then, there's the shocking twist at the end - she did the same thing! Wonder how *he* took that bit of news?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Stewie Griffin: Make It So

I've seen a few episodes of "Family Guy" here and there, but I don't really watch the show. I will also occasionally hear an episode because the husband is watching it in the other room. I still haven't actually seen the "Star Wars" episode even though I have a t-shirt related to that episode.

Today, Wil Wheaton tweeted a link to the trailer for this Sunday's episode of "Family Guy", which features a reunion of the cast of "Star Trek: The Next Generation".

Oh.My.Heck. It's just too funny. And it took me a second to figure out who the blondie was. Denise! I wonder if she has any lines.

I thought the trailer was funny in general but I literally laughed out loud when Stewie tells Brent to take Michael to the bathroom, and Brent says ok, and he and Michael get up and hold hands to walk away.

Brings back nice memories. I think I'm going to have to actually watch this show.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Trattoria Tiramisu - restaurant review

The husband and I had plans to be in the Palm Desert area on a Saturday night, so we were looking for somewhere to have dinner. I talked to a co-worker who knew the area well, and one of the places he recommended was Trattoria Tiramisu. The menu looked good, so we decided to try it out.

The restaurant is tucked into the corner of an outdoor mini-mall, inset from the main street, so we ended up driving past it and then coming back to find it.

We went inside, but when the husband checked in, he was told that they didn't have a reservation for him. Hmmm, that's odd, he had called the day before to make the reservation. The restaurant was fairly small (just one room), and they didn't have any more tables left inside, but they had an outdoor seating area that was open, so we agreed to sit outside. We were led to our table and left with menus, and shortly after, we were brought some bread and an eggplant-based spread that was quite delicious.

The outdoor seating area is just outside the restaurant, with a number of small tables on what is basically the sidewalk area for that section of the mini-mall. There were hedges and space heaters and such put up to kind of off-set the area, so that was a nice added touch, and there was music piped outside as well. We were the only ones outside for a while, so we had the whole area to ourselves.

The server actually came by a little while later to say that they'd found our reservation - it had inadvertently been entered for Sunday night rather than Saturday night, so he apologized for the error.

For a starter, the husband ordered a cured beef salad, which he enjoyed. I decided on a mixed greens salad with goat cheese, which was quite tasty.

The husband had already known what he would be ordering as an entree. He had noticed on the website that on Saturday nights, the restaurant offered an entree featuring slices of roasted leg of veal, which was accompanied by rosemary potatoes and spinach. He very much enjoyed his entree.

There were a few things on the menu that looked good to me, but then the server went through the specials of the day. He mentioned a spaghetti dish with lobster and cherry tomatoes, and it just sounded too good to pass up, so I had that. It was very tasty indeed. The red sauce was very good, and the lobster pieces were plentiful and nicely cooked. I'm a fan of red sauce pastas anyway, so the extra tomatoes in the dish were a nice addition.

For dessert, the husband ordered the spumoni, which had pieces of pistachios and cherries, and the husband enjoyed that. I decided that if they were going to include "tiramisu" in the name of the restaurant, they better have a great version of that dessert, so I chose that. I've had tiramisu before, and it's usually a rectangular piece, presumably cut from a larger piece. In this case, though, the dessert came in a wide dessert glass - a sort of single serving size. Curled chocolate shavings (I think they were dark chocolate because they weren't that sweet) were plentifully sprinkled on top, and the combination of that and the lady fingers and cream was just delicious.

It was a nice evening out - it had been a bit windy earlier in the day, but it died down enough to make dining outside comfortable - and with the extra accents, it was nice to have dinner outside. We were the only ones out there for a while, before other tables were sat as well. I heard a couple of people mention that it was kind of loud inside the dining room, so they liked the relative quiet outside instead, so I found that comment to be interesting. I did notice that the dining room was busy the entire time we were at dinner. When a party would vacate their table, the table was cleaned and re-set and then another party was sat down.

And even when we were the only party outside, we were never neglected. We ended up being a bit confused because we had a few different people coming by to take our order, but our server would wander out on a regular basis to check on us, usually surreptitiously - he didn't interrupt us, but it was clear that he was available if we needed something. The busboy was prompt in clearing our dishes when we were done with a course, and we were also offered to have our bread replenished, which we ended up declining.

And this part will sound really weird, but I actually found it quite refreshing that our server in the Italian restaurant was in fact Italian. You could tell in the way he pronounced the various dishes as well as the cadence in which he spoke. He also had a very nice demeanour - helpful and knowledgeable, happy to be there, pleasant all around, and even lightly humming/singing to himself when he would wander outside.

A different server ended up taking our dessert order, and he too was very nice and also Italian. When he asked about dessert, we actually had a misunderstanding before I realized that they didn't have a printed dessert menu, but rather, he just recited the various choices.

On a side note that amused me, the co-worker who had recommended the restaurant ended up dining there that evening as well. I hadn't known much ahead of time that we were going there, so I hadn't had a chance to mention it to him, so it was funny when he walked up as we were enjoying our starters. After saying hello and chatting for a minute, he went to join the rest of his party inside the dining room.

Since the restaurant is in the mini-mall, there is plenty of nearby parking.

Overall, it was a wonderful dinner, with terrific food and great service. It's definitely a restaurant that I would return to and that I would also pass along the recommendation to other people.

Trattoria Tiramisu
72655 Highway One Eleven, Suite B6
Palm Desert, CA 92260
(760) 773-9100

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Anne as Judy

I liked Anne Hathaway in "The Princess Diaries" and I also liked her in "The Devil Wears Prada", but neither were particularly challenging roles. Her role as Agent 99 in the movie "Get Smart" was a bit different, and I thought she did a good job, but it wasn't until I saw her in "Rachel Getting Married" last year that I was really impressed, since that was a completely different kind of role than I'd seen her in before. And she did an amazing job. Before that movie, I would have been surprised to see the announcement that Anne Hathaway has been chosen to play Judy Garland in a biographical movie, but having seen last year's film, I think Anne has the ability to pull off such a challenging role. I'm curious since the article mentions a "film and stage" adaptation of a Judy Garland biography. But I'm looking forward to seeing what Anne can do with this role.

Monday, March 23, 2009

I do not think it means what you think it means

So, yeah, I'm a human spell-check machine. It's not that I always try. Usually, I just can't help it.

I've been on Facebook quite a bit, and there are these little ads that line the right side of the screen. I don't notice all of them, but the odd one here or there might catch my attention for whatever reason. Some of them are weird, and some actually sound interesting.

I noticed one series of ads for ways to decorate your profile. No thanks, I don't think I need more. But one particular ad kept bugging me, though I couldn't quite figure out why.

You see what it is? Very subtle, but it completely changes the meaning of the sentence. I don't think that's what they had in mind. Maybe it's just this particular design, and maybe someone doesn't like it but was forced to make it available, so they thought they'd get their revenge that way. After all, who's gonna notice?

The rest of the ads with other designs are all done correctly.

Well, cherries *are* pretty tasty.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

"Race to Witch Mountain" - spoiler movie review

Although I remember liking the original film, "Escape to Witch Mountain", I'll admit that I don't remember all that much about it, so I couldn't really do that much of a comparison to the remake, entitled "Race to Witch Mountain". On its own merits, though, I really enjoyed the film. It had its share of great action, and it had a lot of funny moments.

Dwayne Johnson was quite good as Jack Bruno, the Las Vegas cabbie roped into helping the two alien kids get back to their ship.

AnnaSophia Robb plays the girl twin, Sara, and she was pretty good. I didn't realize she had played Violet Beauregarde in "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory". I did laugh that Sara kept calling him Jackbruno because that was the name he had on his ID in the cab.

AnnaSophia Robb as Violet Beauregarde

AnnaSophia Robb as Sara, Dwayne Johnson as Jack Bruno, and Alexander Ludwig as Seth

Carla Gugino was fine as Alex, the astrophysicist doctor or whatever she was who gets drawn into helping the kids as well. It was nice to see her looking like her, as opposed to her character in "Watchmen". I did find it amusing that she was in two high-profile movies and ended up directly competing with herself, since "Race to Witch Mountain" came out the week after "Watchmen".

Alex, Sara, Seth and Jackbruno

It was funny to see Tom Everett Scott (from "That Thing You Do") and Chris Marquette (from "Joan of Arcadia") in the film. I didn't know either were in this film, so it was a nice surprise.

The cameo by Cheech Marin was pretty funny.

And Garry Marshall had a nice extended cameo as Dr. Donald Harlan. I wonder if that's a tribute in any way to Harlan Ellison?

The really cool casting, though, was that they found small but significant roles for the two people who played the twins in the original movie. Kim Richards plays Tina (her character in the original film was named "Tia", which I had forgotten, but maybe they decided to change her name so that people wouldn't wonder why she was named "auntie"), a diner waitress who is a great help to the group as they try to escape. She has this wonderful moment with Sara. Ike Eisenmann plays Sheriff Antony (his character in the original film was named "Tony"), who is also instrumental in helping the group escape from the diner.

General thoughts on the movie:

Exactly how much money did Nationwide pay for their prominent product placement on the cab?

So Planet Hollywood has yet again agreed to be the site of a major motion picture, like they were in "21". I expect that's because they're not doing as well as some of the major casinos and so need the extra publicity and money, not to mention they would probably be more inclined to inconvenience their guests by having parts of a movie shot there.

I did laugh at the convention footage. I've been to those kind of "nutjob conventions" - they're fun, but they can be scary too. Furries. That's all I'm saying.

I also laughed when Sara was demonstrating her power of levitation to Jackbruno, and he said that people don't do that because it's creepy.

That scene with the car crashing into Seth was pretty awesome.

When Sara and Seth go through the refrigerator door, I was busting up at Jackbruno's line of "Don't go in the pimped out fridge Jack."

Siphon was pretty awesome, but then, he was part Predator, part Terminator and part Gort, so of course he'd be awesome.

The entrance to Witch Mountain so reminded me of the entrance to NORAD from "WarGames".

The fight between Jackbruno and Siphon on the ship was fun, but since we obviously knew that Jackbruno had to survive, the expected tension and suspense didn't work at all for me.

And in a rare case of actually figuring something out ahead of time, as Sara was saying goodbye to Jackbruno, she said she had one thing to ask of him. Before she said it, I knew that she wanted him to take care of Junkyard, the dog that helped them. Jackbruno will have to remember to buy meaty treats.

And yes, the end of the movie sets it up for a sequel.

I did notice that there weren't any scenes that I could remember where people actually died. It's a PG Disney film, so I guess that's to be expected. Things blow up, explosions happen at the convention, heck, a train rams into Siphon's flying machine, but they make it a point of saying that the conductor survived.

Overall, I had a really good time with this film. And yeah, I'd probably be up for a sequel.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

R2 around the house

The StarWarsShop currently has a number of items featuring R2-D2 that would be pretty cool to have around the house.

This R2 projection alarm clock is pretty neat, but I'm not sure that R2's beeping would be enough to wake someone. Maybe if he also came with that little electric tazer thing that he used on Salacious Crumb, that might help wake someone up.

How cute is this R2 shampoo bottle/soap dispenser? OK, so it might be a little undignified, but hey, R2 was already a drink cart - how much more undignified could he get?

Friday, March 20, 2009

"9" - upcoming animated movie

In seeing movies the past couple of weeks, I've seen the trailer for the film "9", which is being released, appropriately enough, on September 9 (9-9-09). Someone on a discussion board mentioned that the movie is based on a short film. There's no direct link to the short itself, but if you go to Shane Acker's website, click on "FILMS", and then click on the bottom left box for "9 the short".

The short was not what I expected at all. It really looks just like a teaser trailer for a film - even shorter than the actual trailer for the feature film itself which gives more information. As a short on its own, it seems disjointed, incomplete. That being said, I'm very surprised that it was nominated for an Oscar for Best Animated Short Film in 2005. I guess they really just liked the style.

Here's the description of the short from the site:

A mechanical beast attacks two rag doll creatures as they scavenge the ruins of their world. After witnessing the death of his Mentor "5" by the hands of the malevolent construct, the rag doll "9" must confront the terror. Only through cunning and the use of his primitive technology can 9 hope to destroy the creature and steal the talisman of trapped souls it carries as a trophy.

But I do like the animation style from the trailer, which really grabbed my attention, and the little bit of plot given in the trailer sounds intriguing.

From Shane Acker's website, there's a link to the official site for the movie, which has the trailer running on the main page, but the site itself doesn't seem to have anything else on it at the moment.

Here's a link to another site with the trailer of the movie.

The film stars the voices of Elijah Wood, John C. Reilly, Jennifer Connelly, Crispin Glover, Martin Landau and Christopher Plummer. I'm a huge fan of Elijah, so I'm looking forward to hearing his voicework on this. The rest of the listed cast are definitely no slouches either. And Tim Burton is one of the producers of this film.

I absolutely *love* the music in the trailer, but I don't know if that's representative of what will be in the film. I sure hope so.

We won't be seeing the film on opening day as we already have plans for that day, but I expect we'll be seeing the film sometime within its first couple days of release.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

"Taken" - spoiler movie review (and real-life events)

Before I saw the trailer, I saw the one-sheet for "Taken".

Hmmm, intriguing words. And I like Liam Neeson. And then I saw the trailer, and I was definitely in.

Overall, I liked the film, though it's fairly light in plot. Long-absent dad (Neeson) tries to establish a relationship with his teenage daughter (Maggie Grace), which is looked upon with disfavor by his ex-wife (Famke Janssen) and with disinterest by her new husband (Xander Berkeley). Because of his government-affiliated work, he's extra paranoid but is eventually persuaded to let his daughter go abroad with a friend. Should have listened to dad, because both girls are promptly kidnapped by a gang who traffic in girls. But not before the daughter is able to tell dear old dad exactly what's going on. Which is what prompts the words on the one-sheet, words that dad tells his daughter's kidnapper. The rest of the movie basically consists of dad looking for his daughter, following leads, and is a fairly typical action movie, except that Liam Neeson is in it. Yeah, he was in "The Phantom Menace" and "Batman Begins", but he wasn't really an action hero sort of guy before.

As you'd expect, the action sequences are fairly spectacular, though there is such an abundance of them that I kind of hit overlord and started watching them on autopilot almost.

In the end, dad of course finds his daughter.

Maggie Grace is fine in the film, though she's really not in it much. She's in the opening sequences, but once she's kidnapped, we see very little of her. They've certainly dressed her down to make her look much younger.

Dad brings daughter a birthday present while mom looks on disapprovingly.

But I did think she did a really terrific job in the apartment, when she realizes that men are taking her friend and they're looking for her next. The scene with her on the phone under the bed was pretty spectacular.

Famke Janssen is ok in the movie - she really doesn't have that much to do. She gets to be snotty as the ex-wife who's done much better for herself and then is devastated to realize the danger she has allowed her daughter to get into. Now, if Phoenix was there instead, those guys who messed with her daughter would have been toast - probably literally.

Xander Berkeley really has very little to do as the new husband, but I still liked seeing him. I miss him in "24".

But of course, the star of the movie was Liam Neeson. He does really well as an action hero guy, and his quiet tones make him all the more menacing. He was fun to watch.

We saw this film several weeks ago, and I enjoyed it, but I didn't really think it was a high-profile film, even with Liam Neeson as the star. But one thing I've marvelled at is how well the film has continued to do. The movie has been out for seven weeks, and in that time, the film has stayed in the top 5 every weekend. To date, the film has grossed about $128,000,000. I'm really just amazed at the staying power of this film, and I really can't begin to explain it.

And had I posted this review shortly after I'd seen the film, or even a week or two ago, that would have been the end of this blog post, how well the film is doing. But today, the success of the film doesn't mean much. I expect Liam Neeson would give back all that success and everything he has to change the tragic events of the past week. Last week, he was a very popular and successful movie star, working on a new film. This week, none of that matters - he's just a husband who has lost his wife, and a father to two teenage boys who have lost their mother. Even the title of this film takes on a painful tinge now, much too close to reality.

My thoughts and prayers and condolences go out to Liam Neeson, his two boys, and the rest of their family.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Why take responsibility when I can blame someone else?

A friend alerted me to a blog post on the L.A. Times website called "Disneyland passholders: Watch out for birthday blackout dates". The link pops up the blog post now, but I'm not sure if sometime in the future, it will require that you register first.

The blog post is so stupid that I don't even know where to begin. "You better look out for those blackout dates!" Ummm, yeah, if you have any level of AP other than premium, you probably pay fairly careful attention to when your blackout dates are. The entire blog post is written from the implication that only one level of AP is offered. Some people may not know that there are different levels of AP that allow different kinds of access.

Obviously, for the average Disneyland annual passholder who visits the park on regular basis, the free-on-your-birthday deal isn't much of perk.
So "average" is supposed to equate to "premium annual passholder"? Because not all AP holders can visit year-round. And for those who don't have access every day of the year, access on your birthday if you can't get in otherwise is just as good as for anyone else who doesn't have an AP.

So the Anaheim theme park offers a free $69 gift card (the standard price of admission) to their most loyal customers.
That would be true - but only if you equate "most loyal customers" to "premium annual passholders".

"So, just because my birthday falls on a blackout day, I don't get the gift card?" said Nancy, on the verge of tears. "That's unfair."
So is this for dramatic effect? Because I have to say that I'd be very surprised if a woman could be reduced to the verge of tears because she isn't getting a gift card BECAUSE SHE ISN'T ELIGIBLE. "Unfair". Really? What does fair or unfair have to do with it? She and her blogger husband didn't bother to read all the terms and conditions of the offer. They obviously must have seen more than just the "free on your birthday" commercials, because those commercials say nothing about what happens if you already have admission on that day. So someone must have either been told something by someone else, or someone did a cursory look at Disneyland's website, but they decided to only pay attention to the "I get free money on my birthday!" aspect rather than actually paying attention to the terms of the promotion itself.

The offer is getting into Disneyland free for your birthday. As a non-premium AP holder, she did not already have admission into the park on her birthday. So, that's what was being offered to her - admission on her birthday, same as anyone else. For a premium annual passholder (or other qualifying admission media holder), yeah, free admission on your birthday is literally worthless because it's not giving you anything you don't already have - which is why they have the alternate gifts, one of which is the gift card.

So if someone says "So, just because my birthday falls on a day when I don't have admission into the park, I don’t get the gift card? That's unfair", would that fly too? Should Disney then fork over $69 in that case as well? Because that statement applies exactly to the situation of the writer's wife. If random person shows up at the resort with no admission media, should they be allowed to demand a $69 gift card just because it's their birthday? That person wouldn't be doing anything different than what was depicted in the blog post.

Or maybe you have to prove that you're a loyal Disney customer. OK, how about someone who has the full WDW AP - that should be enough credential to be deemed a loyal customer, right? If they show up at Disneyland and demand $69 for their birthday, should they get it? No. Because they don't qualify under the terms of the promotion.

with Nancy’s birthday on the verge of being ruined
I put the blame for that solely on the blogger and/or the wife, whoever it was that didn't bother to actually learn the rules of the promotion.

Disneyland officials, contacted for a response, offered apologies but stuck by the company policy: "Our policy for Annual Passholders regarding Free On Your Birthday and blackout dates is clearly stated in Annual Passholder publications and on our website. It is unfortunate that the guest was not aware of the policy and we apologize that she was disappointed."
And yes, the rules are fully on the site. The blogger publishes this response, but then takes ZERO responsibility for the fact that neither he nor his wife knew the actual terms of the promotion. He could have ended with, "Well, our day didn't go as we had planned, so I thought I'd warn other people to make sure to pay attention to their blackout days. If we'd done the same, we wouldn't have encountered the problem we did." That would have at least been taking some responsibility for what happened. But, oh no, can't possibly do that. It's ALL Disney's fault!

And THEN, the blogger has the *nerve* to link to the birthday thread on MousePad, the discussion section of a Disney-related website, saying this similiar situation has happened to a lot of other people. OK, I'm am active member on that board, and I've been reading that thread from the beginning, and maybe I'm just forgetting, but I don't recall ANYONE saying they went on their birthday, which was a blackout day, and they didn't get a gift card and had their day totally ruined. Furthermore, if the blogger knew enough to link to the thread, he could have known enough to actually READ the thread, where we've been talking FOR MONTHS about blackout days and how you can get what gift for your birthday under what circumstances.

So, how did the blogger know about the existence of that particular birthday thread? Because he is registered on the discussion board website, though he has only bothered to post five things, all of which were simply to pimp articles that he'd written for the L.A. Times website. If he'd actually have bothered to be a part of the community, or at the VERY LEAST, bothered to mine the wealth of information that is put forth on the discussion boards every.single.day, he wouldn't have gone to Disneyland completely uninformed.

Oh, and then look, at the end of the blog post, he does say blackout days vary depending on the kind of AP you have. Duh.

However, I will say that I'm laughing hysterically at the comments posted in response to that blog. Most people seem to be saying the same thing I'm saying - it's your own fault for not paying attention.

Here's one person's comment which I heartily agree with:
And if you are the theme park reporter and you don't understand the "free on your birthday" promotion, you are not doing your job.

And then, lo and behold, Mr. Blogger aka Brady MacDonald, actually posted some comments himself in response to the comments others had posted.

Here's an interesting comment from Mr. Blogger:
I like the $69 consolation prize better than getting into the park for free. IMO, Disneyland is being surprisingly generous, whether they let me into the park for free, give me $29 gift card or a $69 gift card. Yet, I still feel Nancy was gypped. And I am acting childish and entitled. I'm not proud of it. But it's true.
It's not a "pick and choose which one you want out of everything we're offering" promotion. If you're eligible for the free admission, you get that. If you don't need that, you can have something else. Heck, the way he says it, any random person should be able to just go to the park on their birthday and demand $69 since that would be much better than just being able to get in for free. And he admits that it's a good promotion, no matter what, and yet, somehow, his wife was still wronged. Give me a foxtrotting break.

Someone mentioned that if they had premium APs, his wife would have gotten her gift card no problem, to which he commented:
We specifically purchase the Deluxe passes in order to avoid the park on the busiest blackout days. We went to the park on Nancy's birthday only to pick up the gift card. I never checked the blackout dates because we had no plans to go into the park. That was my mistake.
So, you're all set to go get the perq - of something you don't want to purchase. He went as far as to pay attention that if you have an AP, an alternate birthday gift could be available, but he didn't go the extra step to read ALL OF THE RULES? I'm wondering where they parked. Because with deluxe passes on a blackout day, they would have had to pay for parking in the regular Disneyland parking structure. That would have been the first clue about it being a blackout day. If they parked in the Downtown Disney parking lot, then the issue of an AP wouldn't have come up.

Quite a number of people on the blog post comment section as well as discussion boards have pointed out the idiocy of his wife being close to tears because Disney wouldn't give her $69. His response:
I hate to see my wife cry. Especially on her birthday.
Awww, nice play for sympathy. But as far as I'm concerned, he should feel like a heel for being the one responsible for making his wife cry on her birthday, since it was his own stupidity that led to her being so terribly disappointed and traumatized at not getting $69 from Disney.

But I do like his admission that he's acting childish and entitled. However, it would have been nice if he'd admitted how much at fault he (and possibly his wife) were in the blog post proper, rather than just somewhere buried in the comments. I'm thinking he wasn't expecting the backlash he got, that he figured everyone would jump on his "woe is me, Disney is evil and mean" bandwagon. Bet he's surprised that there are so many people who saw right through him.

So I posted most of the above to the two Disney-related discussion boards that I participate on. Some of the above is only on this blog because they could potentially violate the rules set up on those boards. But here, I set the rules, and I can say what I want. And then, someone who also participates on both boards (who I shall refer to as Mr. Cooper) came to Mr. Blogger's defense by pointing out this and that wrong with Disney, most of which had nothing to do with the point of Mr. Blogger's post anyway. But hey, as usual, let's deflect to try to bash Disney! As far as I'm concerned, Mr. Cooper is a troll, and I've thought that for a long time. He's just better at it than most amateur trolls. He's like that when it comes to Disney, and he's like that when it comes to particular political issues. He doesn't actually engage in discussion, exchanging viewpoints and discourse. No, that would be too hard. He just posts inflammatory sound bites, a kind of drive-by posting.

But in this case, in responding to his posts, I managed to get information from Mr. Cooper that I did not expect. I figured he was defending the blog post because he normally likes to bash Disney anyway. But, in this case, he had more reason to swoop in defense of the blog post. He volunteered that the blogger had sent him a draft of the blog post to review, supposedly for "factual information", whatever that means. Given all the problems with the post itself, and the misinformation by omission, I then understood even better why he felt the need to defend it, no matter how stupid the blog post was.

If I was in that position, I suppose I'd probably feel the need to try to defend it too. But then, I can't imagine that I'd ever be friends enough in the first place with someone who'd post that kind of childish and entitled rant. And if by some warp in the space/time continuum that it actually happened, I probably couldn't do much more than respond that I thought the blog post was completely ridiculous and made the blogger and his wife look like complete idiots, and that there was nothing I could do to help them and wanted no involvement with it.

Mr. Cooper went on to question what the description of "valid" is with regard to the AP that would be needed to get the alternate gifts. Hmmm, maybe I should have asked him what he thought the definition of "is" is. My response was that it doesn't matter what my description, his description, or anyone else's description of "valid" AP means. It matters what Disney means by that. If I saw that, even though I have a premium AP, I'd check to make sure I knew what they mean by "valid".

Mr. Cooper then went on this rant about how there's no information about the birthday promotion posted at the main entrance plaza or inside the park (to which someone correctly pointed out what the point would be of having the information posted INSIDE the park since you'd really need to know about the promotion before going into the park), and how Disney is almost keeping it a secret by not having any information there about the birthday promotion. Yeah, big secret, given the billboards plastered everywhere and all the other information available everywhere about the birthday promotion.

He wanted posters and flyers at each ticket booth, with all the information, including fine print (which, I guess, means the basic rules of the promotion itself) of the free on your birthday offer.

Here was my response:
And how many languages do you think that should be in? And you don't think that many people waiting in line who don't have a birthday won't take a lot of time quizzing each ticket seller about the program, thereby making the ticket lines unnecessarily longer and then more people will complain about how Disney customer service sucks because oh my gosh, the line took FOREVER.

And where are all the signs on property about the 2fer? Because, you know, nobody knows about THAT promotion either. And if you don't tell them about it ONCE THEY'RE ALREADY AT THE PARK, how in the heck are they supposed to know about it?.
Yes, that last paragraph was sarcasm. The 2fer program (for the price of a single-park ticket, you can visit both parks) is offered to Southern California residents and is *very* popular.

I've heard various complaints about the program, including that it's not fair that it's only on your birthday because my birthday is on X date, and I can't go to Disneyland on that day, so it doesn't do me any good, so the promotion sucks and no one should be able to take advantage of it. Ummm, ok. Disney has been offering a promotion at Walt Disney World whereby you pay for a 4-night package and you get 3 extra nights free. That's a great offer. I'm disappointed that I can't take advantage of that because a trip to WDW doesn't fit into our schedule this year. But do I begrudge others taking advantage of it? No. Do I think it's an unfair promotion because I can't personally take advantage of it. No. Am I throwing a fit because Disney is being terribly unfair and mean specifically to me, so they really need to give me something to make up for it? Ummm, no.

To me, Mr. Blogger and Mr. Cooper are just examples that show that for some people, if you give them a slice of cake, they'll complain that you didn't put chocolate sprinkles on it or that the slice wasn't big enough or that you didn't offer them a brownie or prime rib instead.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

St. Patrick's Day

I will admit that I have no idea what St. Patrick's Day is about. You're supposed to wear green, but I don't know why. In school, I pretty much wore something green just so stupid kids wouldn't pinch or hit me. As an adult, I don't really do the "wear green" thing. "But everyone's Irish on St. Patrick's Day!" Ummm, no, I'm not. I like some Irish stuff, like their Dubliner cheese which is pretty yummy, and I love some other Irish stuff - but that doesn't make me Irish any more than loving sushi makes me Japanese. As far as I can tell, most people use St. Patrick's Day as an excuse to get totally wasted, on green beer no less. I'm not a fan of beer anyway, but green beer? Blech.

But, as usual, Google has a cool themed logo.

If you see a leprechaun today - wave hi to him.

Monday, March 16, 2009

wild koala saved from fires

The 2009 fires in the bush of Australia affected a lot of wildlife, including koalas. While they are very cute, they're generally not very friendly creatures, but a firefighter happened upon a hurt and scared koala, who was also quite thirsty.

Here's the footage.

Here's a followup video of "Sam" the koala. You can see that Sam's feet are still in bandages.

After the videos, there are also related links to further videos of Sam.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

run for the hills

I saw this letter to Dear Abby:

DEAR ABBY: My boyfriend, "Josh," won't leave me alone. We have been living together for almost a year, and he is the ultimate overprotector. When I start to leave the house to run errands or anything, he stops me and asks, "Where do you think you're going?" When I tell him, he will then follow me to the location.

I love Josh and would never want to hurt his feelings, but I think he's a little too worried about me. I'm an adult, and I can take care of myself. Is Josh being too overprotective, or am I just crazy? -- OVERPROTECTED IN OREGON

My advice - RUN, now, quickly, and far away. That's not being "overprotective". That's being suffocatingly controlling. "Where are you going?" asked out of curiosity or just for informational purposes is one thing. But "where do you think you're going?" is a completely different question with lots of other connotations, and to me, an underlying threat. There's really no way to take that, especially from one adult to another.

He doesn't want to go with you on errands - he just wants to follow you. Yeah, ok, that's normal. RUN.AWAY. NOW.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Napa Rose - winning more awards

Have I mentioned how much I love Napa Rose, what an amazing restaurant it is, how great the staff is, and what incredible dining experiences we've had there? Yeah, OK, I might have mentioned that before.

Well, it's not like I'm the only one who thinks that way, and it's not like Napa Rose hasn't already won awards and accolades and other really good "a" words, but they've done it again.

A friend mentioned this to me a couple days ago, but I found this press release today.

In addition to other awards, two of Napa Rose's sous chefs, Francisco Origel and Alex Flores, were jointly named as Sous Chef of the Year by Southern California Restaurant Writers, Inc. - given that their range covers from Santa Barbara to the Mexico border, that is a very big honor indeed.

I remember Francisco from seeing him each time I've been to Napa Rose. Some of the chefs can be a bit more boisterous and outgoing, but he's a more unassuming man, though if you engage him in conversation, he is quite forthcoming with answers to questions about what they're cooking and such. It's nice to see him receive such a prestigious award.

I'm not completely sure who Alex is, but I think we saw him a couple months ago at least, when we were sitting at the counter at seats #1 and #2, and next to us was a couple who were in town from Sacramento making their very first visit to Napa Rose. They were absolutely raving about the food, and I think Alex was the chef running the pass that night - I don't think executive chef Andrew Sutton was there that night. He definitely seemed very knowledgeable and appreciative as he was talking to the couple next to us, and they were very thankful that he took such good care of them.

Congratulations to Francisco and Alex!

Friday, March 13, 2009

news roundup Friday - college basketball, lost-and-found kitty, stupid thief and MILs

Happy Friday the 13th for the second time this year! Here's a rundown of a few news stories that interested me.

six overtimes in college basketball game

I don't generally care about college sports. Yeah, I pay attention somewhat to college football, particularly when it comes to Cal, but while I might be interested in scores, I don't much care about watching the games. I have even less interest in college basketball. To me, that's about as bad as ... watching the WNBA. But while driving home last night, I heard the story about the college basketball game between Syracuse University and the University of Connecticut. Syracuse ended up winning the game, but not until after they'd played 6 overtime periods, with the game lasting a total of almost 4 hours, ending at 1:22am at Madison Square Garden in New York. I'm pretty amazed that almost the entire crowd was there for the entire game - overtimes included. Yeah, the game was exciting - Syracuse had a basket at the end of regulation which would have broken the tie and given them the win right then and there, but the basket was ruled to be too late, after time had already expired in the game - and once you've committed to one overtime and then two, you HAVE to stay to the end, but I am pretty impressed that most of them actually did stay. There have to be a lot of people exhausted at work today.

Speaking of which, Syracuse has a game tonight at 9pm Eastern time against West Virginia. Hope they'll be awake by then. And not limping.

why is the couch mewing at me?

A woman bought a used couch from a thrift store only to discover several days later that the couch came with an extra feature - a calico cat. I'm wondering how long the couch was at the store, and the cat didn't make any noise or expend any effort to get out then? And when a couch is donated to a store for re-sale, they don't clean it or anything, which would have exposed the cat? Ewww. I don't know that I would have thought about trying to contact the owner, though, so it's good that she did, and it's good that the cat was reunited with its owner. Orkid would be one of those who'd be locked away in a trunk and we'd never know it, because while she is now vocal TO us (she didn't mew for the longest time when we first got her, so we didn't even know what her voice sounded like), she doesn't make a sound when she's been accidentally locked somewhere. I'll just happen to notice that I haven't seen her in a while, and she's not in any of her normal napping places, so the husband and I will go around the house calling her. No answer. We'll try to remember what rooms we've been in where we normally keep the door closed, or we'll look in the closet or cabinets or something, and invariably, she snuck into a room she's not normally allowed in, and we didn't notice and closed the door on her inside. And we only find her if we open enough doors, and eventually, she'll walk out of one.

maybe next time, he should try robbing a police station

All I'm going to say is - don't mess with a Tae Kwon Do dude.

not exactly a monopoly

A woman has filed a lawsuit naming about forty bazillion people, accusing them of stealing her script and making the movie "Monster-in-Law" with it. First of all, I guess she's either casting the widest net possible, or she's just really ignorant about things, because she has named the actors of the movie in her lawsuit. Ummm, yeah, you know, they didn't write the script, they were just hired to do a movie, so really, they have no liability of any alleged theft of your screenplay. And secondly, while I haven't seen the film, problems with mothers-in-law isn't a unique situation, no matter how complicated the relationship might be. Unless there are incidents depicted in the film that are unique and have only happened to her and NO ONE ELSE EVER, she doesn't have a leg to stand on. I read about MIL-related incidents that happen all the time, and there are lots of similarities among the stories. And, on top of that, she doesn't seem to be able to make any connection as to how any of the forty bazillion people might have had any access to her script. There is such a thing as simultaneous creation.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

"Iron Man" sequel casting news

So "Iron Man" Robert Downey, Jr. knows who he will be fighting with and against in the next movie. This article states that Scarlett Johansson will be playing Black Widow and Mickey Rourke will play Whiplash.

I'm not particularly a fan of Scarlett Johansson - I tend to like her or not like her on an individual basis, depending on the movie and role. It looks like Black Widow will mix it up with Iron Man a bit but will eventually fight on the same side. I'm willing to reserve judgement until I see her.

I don't have a feeling about Mickey Rourke one way or the other, but I can't say that I'm surprised he's playing a villain.

I loved the first movie, so I'm definitely ready for more.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

80s flashback - Pat Benatar - "Love is a Battlefield"

I am without dispute a child of the 80s. I grew up with the music, the movies, the styles, the trends. Yeah, lots of stuff went wrong in the 80s too, but I prefer to focus on the good stuff, the stuff that made me happy. :)

So, I'm going to reminisce on occasion about random things in the 80s.

One of the quintessential performers in the 80s was Pat Benatar. She was opera-trained, but she really wanted to sing rock music, and belt them out she did. They weren't necessarily happy songs, but they were pretty amazing. And she had even more amazing videos. The 80s were when music videos rocked.

Here's "Love is a Battlefield". I always loved the choreography in the bar when the women are all dancing together. Stupid guy trying to boss them around - they're going to dance all over you! I think I actually tried to duplicate the moves. I said "tried", not "succeeded".

Monday, March 9, 2009

"Terminator Salvation" - trailer

So, as much as I'm dying to see "Terminator Salvation", I had decided that I did NOT want to see the trailer online - I wanted to see it in a movie theatre. Well, I held out and was finally rewarded. When we went to see "Watchmen" Saturday night, they showed a trailer for "Terminator Salvation", which we were hoping for since it made sense. (It was actually rather interesting that every single trailer they showed before the movie was for a film I wanted to see. In addition to "Terminator Salvation", they also showed trailers for "Star Trek", "Knowing" (which I'm going to see in spite of Nicolas Cage), "Public Enemies", and I'm not sure if I'm forgetting anything. I don't think it's happened before where every single trailer being shown is for a film I'm interested in.)

Here's a link to the trailer we saw. It looks awesome. And at this point, now that I'm satisfied at having seen a trailer, I don't really want to know much more about it. I just want to see the film. We have plans to attend a midnight screening of the film on opening night.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

"Watchmen" - spoiler movie review

While I've never read the "Watchmen" graphic novel, I do know enough about it to know its history and the reverence with which it is held by many in the comics community. When I saw the trailer for the movie "Watchmen", though, I was intrigued.

Overall, I really enjoyed the film. Not knowing any of the characters, I thought it might be difficult to get adjusted to the story and the world that the characters are set in, but it wasn't difficult at all. It's set mostly in our world, though an alternate reality version, since Nixon is elected to something like five terms and the U.S. actually won the war in Vietnam. And while there is a fairly large cast of characters, it was interesting to learn the backstory of each of them.

There is a lot of time jumping because they talk about not only the current batch of heroes but also the first batch, and how the two are intertwined and how they're connected. I also liked the stylized look of the film, which I think fit in well with the story of the film itself.

The opening sequence, when the Comedian is killed, set to Nat King Cole's "Unforgettable" was brilliant. They actually use quite a number of iconic songs in the film, which made me wonder exactly how much they paid just for song clearances alone. But then, that's a particular quirk of mine.

I thought the reveal that Janey Slater was involved with Pyramid was going to be the big twist, that she was behind the whole thing mostly because of her residual resentment towards Dr. Manhattan, but the real story was even more sinister - the culprit behind the murders is actually one of their own. And his reasoning is actually for benevolent reasons - well, at least in his view. It's not just because he's power-hungry. He's doing what he feels is necessary to save the human race - but in the process, millions of humans have to be sacrificed. But is that tempered by the fact that the loss of millions is going to save billions? An interesting question.

Malin Akerman plays Laurie/Silk Spectre II. I liked her, though I found it fairly distracting because she looked so much like a young Lucy Lawless, from her "Xena: Warrior Princess" days. So then I was surprised when I saw pictures of her, and it appears that she's normally a blonde. With the blonde hair, there's no resemblance at all. There's one picture of her that I saw where she kind of looks like Natalie Portman. So even though I don't think I've ever seen her in anything before, she looks familiar because she reminds me of other people.

Oddly enough, her mother is played by Carla Gugino, who is entirely not old enough to be playing her mother, being only seven years older. I think she did a pretty good job as well, though it took me a while to recognize her. I know her mostly from the TV show "Threshold". I did think they did a horrible job with the makeup in her scenes as the older version of herself.

Carla, left, plays mom to Malin, right.

Billy Crudup does a good job as Jon/Dr. Manhattan, though he spends most of his time glowing blue, kind of like the Blue Man Group. The exploration of him losing his humanity was pretty interesting, though I wasn't expecting the full frontal naked view of him on several occasions.

Jackie Earle Haley is pretty incredible as Rorschach, though I wish they'd explained how his mask did that thing which gave him his name since his face itself didn't do that. And maybe it's just me, but at times, especially during the prison sequences, he looked kind of like Danny Bonaduce.

Patrick Wilson is pretty good as Nite Owl II. Again, the actor looked familiar. In looking at his credits, I do remember him as the husband in "Lakeview Terrace", but I completely don't remember that he played Raoul in the film version of Andrew Lloyd Webber's "The Phantom of the Opera".

Matt Frewer has a nice little role as Moloch. I didn't really recognize him, but I certainly recognized his voice. But then, I'll always know him as Max Headroom. I wish he was in more things.

The film is pretty long, coming in at close to 3 hours. But I never felt the length, and I was never bored. I'd like to see the film one more time in theatres.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

she's turning 50 and she's finally getting her dream house

Barbie is turning 50, and on Monday, March 9 (I think she's had a lot of surgery, because she looks a little plastic to me), she is finally getting her Malibu Dream House - in real life.

Adler lined Barbie's bedroom with wall-to-wall pink carpeting emblazoned with her initial.

Wall to wall pink carpeting emblazoned with her initial. I can't even begin to imagine what that would look like. Like someone had poured Pepto Bismol on the carpet? Even pinker than Circus Circus in Las Vegas?

Following the festivities, most of Barbie's custom decor will be shipped to the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas to furnish a special pink-tinted Barbie Suite that will be available for bachelorette parties, birthdays or anyone who wants to live like Barbie.

OK, someone go and rent out the place and take pictures, ok? I'll admit I'm not all that familiar with the Palms, but they don't seem like a Barbie-type place to me. Isn't/wasn't there a woman who really had a billion surgeries to make her look like Barbie? She should get a free weekend stay there.

Here's a link to Barbie's site. And here's the site celebrating her 50th birthday.

Friday, March 6, 2009

"Push" - spoiler movie review

The husband had originally mentioned the film "Push" to me, but I never saw a trailer for it. His description of the trailer he'd seen sounded interesting, and he did want to see the film. From what he said, it sounded like a cross between "X-Men" and the "Star Wars" video game "The Force Unleashed".

And then I saw the one-sheet.

Yeah, if I didn't know any better, I would totally have thought this was a poster for "The Force Unleashed".

Overall, I liked the film. The characters were interesting, as you tried to figure out what each of their abilities were and what hip name they were calling it.

The twists were a bit convoluted and sometimes hard to follow, but that might also be attributed to me not feeling well when I saw the movie, so maybe that made it more difficult for me to follow.

The screaming guys were really annoying, so of course, they had to die. And lollipop girl, yeah, she was annoying and bitchy, and WTF with the lollipop, so she had to die too.

OK, I had figured out ahead of time that the soy sauce would be substituted for the magic liquid at some point, but wouldn't that still be poisonous or at least bad for you if you INJECTED THAT INTO YOUR BODY? I mean, I like soy sauce and all, but ewwww.

I was also curious about seeing Dakota Fanning in a non-child role, and I thought she was quite good. Smarmy but still cute. I'm looking forward to watching her as she grows and she starts playing actual adult roles.

Djimon Hounsou is also in the film, and I really liked him in this, but then, I think I've pretty much liked him in everything I've seen him in, especially "In America".

It's a decent enough movie, but if you missed it in the theatres, that's ok - I think it would make a good film for Netflix.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

March 4, 2009 - A Day at the Park

I arrived at the Disneyland Resort parking structure at about 3:40pm. It had rained really hard on the drive from the house, but there, it was sunny with some clouds in the sky, some of them even puffy white ones.

Disney is currently offering a promotion whereby people can get into one of their U.S. parks for free on their actual birthday. If someone already has one of the qualifying admission media that day, they can then choose from a few alternate choices. People can register their birthdays through the Disney website ahead of time, and shortly before your birthday, they send you a letter by email.

Oh, and also, on the day of your birthday, if you've signed up for it, they also send you an email about your virtual birthday party. It includes a link to a page that has a couple games you can play.

I didn't need the free admission and would instead be getting one of the alternate options, and I'd heard reports from people that you can obtain those at places other than the main ticket booths, but since the line was negligible there, I just waited in the main ticket booth line. When a cast member (CM) became available, I presented her with the letter that I had printed out, as well as my driver's license and my annual pass, so she would know I didn't need admission. You don't have to pre-register to get any of the benefits, but having the email makes the process quicker since you would have already filled everything out at the time of your registration. She asked what alternate option I would like, and I told her I wanted the gift card, which is in the amount equal to the cost of a one-day, one-park ticket, currently $69 for an adult. She gave me back my license and AP, and then she handed me a gift card and flyer with instructions. In total, the process probably took about 5 to 10 minutes.

I had thought that the gift card would be one of the designs that can be purchased around the resort, so I was surprised to see that it was a completely different card. I love the design - it's really cute.

The back of the card has some terms of usage that I found to be quite interesting.

Click here for a larger version of this picture.

I thought it was interesting that the card states that it's non-transferable, that only the person who received the card can use it and that verification might be required. I later talked to a CM in a store about this, and I asked if they really did that, and she said that there was really no way for them to check. She said that originally, they had planned to actually print the recipient's name on the card, but then they didn't end up doing that. Originally, the promotion had been that the entire balance of the card could ONLY be used on the person's birthday. The wording on the card would seem to indicate it was created when that was still the intention, since it has the provision about "birthday validation" - you would only have to prove it was your birthday if you could only use the card ON your birthday. It seems that when they changed the terms of the promotion, they just didn't change the wording on the cards.

The gift card is also combinable with other forms of payment, so if you want to buy something that's more than the amount on the gift card, you can pay the difference with another gift card, credit card or cash. I didn't end up spending my gift card, partly because the item I was thinking of was no longer in stock at Disneyana, so I'll look again another day at Off the Page in DCA or at World of Disney.

Here's the flyer that they gave me.

The front of the flyer.
Click here for a larger version of this picture.

The back of the flyer.
Click here for a larger version of this picture.

I went into Disneyland and to City Hall to get my birthday button as well as a "I'm celebrating" button since I hadn't gotten one of those since the promotion began. I like that when you're wearing a birthday button, CMs who see you with the button will generally wish you a happy birthday. Sometimes, other guests will too.

It was later in the day than I had originally intended to be there, so I didn't have a lot of time before I would need to meet the husband for dinner. It wasn't so much that there were lots of things I wanted to do that day - I really just wanted to be at Disneyland. I had something that I needed to do that I brought with me which would require sitting down at a table, so I decided to go to the Golden Horseshoe. That turned out to be a very good idea because it started to rain as I made my way there, so the respite was nice.

There was no show going on at the time, and the place wasn't very crowded, so I made my way upstairs and settled down at one of the tables. I didn't think that Billy Hill and the Hillbillies were playing that day, but I wasn't sure what was. I remember there was a revue there before that I'd never had the chance to see, but I guess they're gone because after a while, the show started, and it was Laughing Stock, a comedy group than normally performs outside, right in front of the Golden Horseshoe. The show itself was ok, with some funny parts, and I finished what I needed to do right as the show ended.

Laughing Stock performing inside the Golden Horseshoe.

I headed to Main Street and then was contemplating heading to DCA for a couple of minutes when the husband let me know that he'd arrived at the resort, so since there wasn't that much time before our reservation, I arranged to meet him instead.

Napa Rose is one of my favorite restaurants, and that's where I had chosen for dinner. We had an amazing dinner that night. Click here for the dinner review.

All in all, it was a lovely day.